Saturday, February 17, 2018

Worms as Food Source

It is interesting to me what different cultures consider okay to eat and what they might consider disgusting to consume. Sometimes the foods we consider good or bad are thought to be so because of completely arbitrary reasons. Maybe a long time ago a certain food was more closely associated with THOSE people and therefore the "good decent" people (snicker) decided that those "nasty" foods were forbidden. Or because people developed in different areas they grew to consider the foods they had around them to be fine and good while looking askance at foods found in other lands. Religious texts often have rules about which animals may be consumed and which ones can't. I can only imagine the horror felt by a devout South Asian Hindu watching a conquering South Asian Muslim walk up to a cow and slaughter it for food. 

Of course cultures change internally as well. The lobster has a slight resemblance to a cockroach and allegedly some of the same bad habits. It wasn't until the late 19th thru the mid 20th century in North America that lobster was considered a delicacy enjoyed on special occasions or only consumed by the rich. Before then people thought lobster was nasty food fit only for poor people, enslaved people or prisoners. In certain nations in Africa and Asia insects are considered okay to consume. China is notorious for having a national palate that includes almost everything. 

So there's no right or wrong once you've accepted that killing animals for consumption is okay. I get that. There are still some groups of animals that I just don't see how or why people would want to eat. The first group is dogs. That is, as I freely admit, a purely cultural prejudice but it is one that I am not going to deny.  I think it's particularly cruel to harm an animal that has been genetically and culturally modified to be your companion, not dinner. The second group is anything that is creepy crawly, primarily but not exclusively worms. But some people think that consumption of worms is just fine. Short of starvation I'm not going to be trying any fried Ruoi anytime soon. But had I been born in Vietnam perhaps I would feel differently.  Different strokes for different folks. 

Ragworms are predominantly marine organisms that may occasionally swim upstream to rivers and even climb to land (for example Lycastopsis catarractarum). They are commonly found in all water depths, foraging in seaweeds, hiding under rocks or burrowing in sand or mud. Ragworms are mainly omnivorous but many are active carnivores. Nereids only breed once before dying (semelparity) and most of them morph into a distinct form to breed (epitoky).

Ragworms are important food sources for a number of shore birds. Ragworms' teeth are made of a very tough, yet lightweight material. Unlike bone and tooth enamel, this is not mineralised with calcium, but is formed by a histidine rich protein, with bound zinc ions. Research on this material could lead to applications in engineering.

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